CakePHP URL Shortener Service Tutorial

CakePHP URL Shortener Service Tutorial

We now have an awesome page set up. Let’s add some logic to it! Open up your model and controller files and let’s get going! First we’ll pump up our model to generate and test both the md5 of the url and the unique random code associated with the shortened url. So open up the model file, shorten.php and add:

function getFilename($length=8, $prefix=''){
  $string = "";
  $possible = "abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyz0123456789";
  $i = 0; 

  do {
  	while ($i < $length) {
	    $char = substr($possible, mt_rand(0, strlen($possible)-1), 1);
	    	$char = strtoupper($char);
	    $string .= $char;
  } while (file_exists(sprintf($prefix, $string)) == true);
  return $string;

What does this do? Well it generates random strings, of both lower and upper cases from the alphabet. It also checks to see if the code exists already in the database, and if it does, to generate another one, until it finds one that is aok to use! This function will come in handy later on when we actually insert the url record into the database. Next let’s write a function that md5’s the url if it doesn’t exist already, and if it does, to tell us the url exists already:

function md5Url($url){
	$md5edurl['url'] = md5($url);
	$md5search = $this->find('count', array('conditions'=>array('unique'=>$md5edurl['url'])), array('recursive'=>-1));
	if($md5search > 0){
		$md5edurl['exists'] = false;
	} else {
		$md5edurl['exists'] = true;
	return $md5edurl;

False? why return false? Well let’s think about this for a moment. Think about what we want to do if the url already exists. We don’t want to save it again! So in effect, we return false that the url should not be re-saved. Instead it should be reused. This function is easy enough to understand. MD5 the url, then see if one exists in the database already. We store whether the url exists already in the exists element of the $md5edurl alongside the md5’d url!

Both of these functions however use a CakePHP function. The find command. It firstly has the find type, in our case both are counts, the conditions for its look up. However the last option might puzzle you a bit. Recursive is set to -1. This is if we had any table associations in place, we wouldn’t need them in these two look ups. CakePHP would automatically include joins on these tables, including data which we don’t need. Setting this recursive to -1 will lock CakePHP’s find to only that table! Easy!

Posted by voidet

Categorised under CakePHP
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  1. i have never seen such a comprehensive tutortial on this , good on yah, i’ll buy you a paypal beer any day 🙂

    August 26, 2009 @ 3:07 pm
  2. hendrik

    great work, thank you!

    August 31, 2009 @ 5:39 am
  3. Awesome tutorial man! Thanks allot

    December 16, 2009 @ 4:25 am
  4. nice post..what about stat a.k.a link tracking? it will be great if u include it.
    i bake mine at for learning purpose.

    April 30, 2010 @ 7:43 am
    • VoiDeT

      That would be quite easy, just depends how much information you would like to store.
      For example you could simply increment a count field in the row for that entry.
      Or you could make a completely new table in the database that would log each view/click and the according information, like IP, datetime etc.

      April 30, 2010 @ 9:00 am
  5. The demo file not work, url not found

    May 23, 2010 @ 3:30 am
  6. Hi, i don like very much the function getFilename. Why dont you try using a function the transform the id of the link into a string with numbers and letters?

    pseudocode for add a link;
    // find link, if not in database insert new link
    // link_shorted= base_convert($link_id, 10, 36);
    // return link_shorted

    pseudocode for get a encoded link;
    // link_id= base_convert($link_code, 36,10);
    // search link by id
    // redirect

    if you want even shorter link you could use this functions;

    function any2dec( $num) {
    $index = substr( “0123456789abcdefghijklmnopqrstuvwxyzABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ”, 0, $base );

    $out = 0;
    $len = strlen( $num ) – 1;
    for ( $t = 0; $t = 0; $t– ) {
    $a = floor( $num / pow( $base, $t ) );
    $out = $out . substr( $index, $a, 1 );
    $num = $num – ( $a * pow( $base, $t ) );
    return $out;

    July 3, 2010 @ 4:11 pm
    • VoiDeT

      Exactly right. This is why at the beginning I said it wasn’t the best way to do it. But for the sake of this intermediate tutorial i thought using those baseencodes would be far beyond the scope of the tutorial. I did find similar functions on that would be used to encode/decode ids or unique identifiers. But thanks for your observant comments!

      July 3, 2010 @ 4:14 pm
      • If I load the website in chrome it doesn’t show all images,also when I click on those images they redirect me somewhere else please can you check it.

        And is there any option to post a file with code inside of it that is perfect.

        November 26, 2015 @ 10:37 pm
  7. >>Exactly right. This is why at the beginning I said it wasn’t the best way to do it.

    upss, i didnt read anything i just read the code, my bad!

    July 3, 2010 @ 4:19 pm
    • VoiDeT

      No problem at all! Thanks for your input 🙂

      July 3, 2010 @ 4:21 pm
  8. Hi all!

    Thanks for that great tutorials. the thing that make me a bit uncomfortable is what will the effect of making url shortened on the site in the term of speed. and talking about dynamic links how will you get shortcode will model association useful in that case. one more question in the routes.php you have write

    Router::connect(‘/:shortcode’, array(‘controller’ => ‘shorten’, ‘action’ => ‘redirectUrl’), array(‘pass’=>array(‘shortcode’)));

    it will redirect whenever you write anything after ‘/’ for rss feed and xml link will it don’t cause problem?

    March 21, 2011 @ 10:02 pm
  9. Hey man … everytime when i am going to open your page my virus protection pops up and displays an exploit : Blackhole Exploit Kit (type 2170) which comes from

    and second one from

    more information on:


    June 5, 2012 @ 6:27 pm
  10. VoiDeT

    @kapil – Sorry the first part I do not understand your english. The second question is true. It will capture all urls with /url. But if you don’t want that, put your urls above that and use shortcode as the last catchall.

    June 5, 2012 @ 7:03 pm
  11. Hi there, I read your blog on a regular basis. Your humoristic style is witty,
    keep up the good work!

    January 4, 2013 @ 12:54 am

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